Two years ago the modern massive open online course, or MOOC, came to prominence when a Stanford computer-science professor named Sebastian Thrun made his artificial-intelligence course freely available to anyone with an Internet connection — and 150,000 people signed up.
Now MOOCs are everywhere. Even in a remote developing country like Mongolia, as I wrote about in the magazine’s Education Issue, you can find high-school students tuning into courses from American universities like M.I.T., Harvard and Berkeley. Coursera, the platform established by a couple of Stanford computer-science professors, Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller, has more than 400 courses in seven languages from 87 academic partners and some 4.7 million students. EdX, the nonprofit platform established by M.I.T. and Harvard, has 68 courses from 28 academic partners and 1.25 million students. These are just two of the platforms out there.
MOOCs began with offerings heavily weighted toward computer science and math — edX’s most popular remain a pair of introductory computer-science courses from Harvard and M.I.T. — but classes now cover everything from finance and law to poetry and music. Through Coursera, you can take “The History of Rock, Part One” (University of Rochester) and “How Green Is That Product? An Introduction to Environmental Life Cycle Assessment” (Northwestern University); popular forthcoming courses on edX include “Globalization’s Winners and Losers” (Georgetown) and “Introduction to Philosophy: God, Knowledge, and Consciousness” (M.I.T.).
[ Full article available at The New York Times: http://6thfloor.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/09/16/the-rise-of-moocs/ ]